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IPUD Pushes Back on 186 New Homes in Inverness

IPUD Pushes Back on 186 New Homes in Inverness

Marin County released in late January a consultant-produced list of hundreds of candidate sites in the unincorporated areas of the County that could potentially be rezoned to accommodate 6,332 new units of housing, as part of the County’s State-mandated obligation to create new housing.

It quickly caught our eye that 18 of the sites were within the Inverness Public Utility District, and they included the Post Office/Saltwater complex, the Inverness Store, Vladimir’s, the Yacht Club, and the Cottages at Point Reyes Seashore. Eleven of the sites were existing residences – 10 of them on Balmoral Way, a narrow, unpaved, dead-end lane off Argyle St.

The report projected that the 18 sites in Inverness could be sliced and diced to support 186 new housing units -- 148 at moderate income level and 38 at above-moderate income (but none for very-low or low income occupants).

The Inverness Water System currently serves 490 active residential water meters, so 186 new residences would present a challenging increase of 38%.

IPUD’s staff dived into a feasibility and constraints analysis of the 18 proposed sites, which we submitted to the County’s consultants in February.

We found that 36 of the projected units would be on the Bay side of Sir Francis Drake Blvd. (the sites of the Inverness Store, Dixon Marine Services, and the Inverness Yacht Club), where the Coastal Commission does not permit new development or substantial redevelopment. The Coastal Commission could also be expected to object to 122 units that would convert current visitor-serving uses to residential use. As many as 124 units would likely be constrained by Streamside Conservation Area setbacks or the Tidelands zone. Locations within the village’s downtown Historic district would affect 36 units.

Currently, all 186 units would require Coastal permits and Design Review. Certainly not to be overlooked is that all the units would require on-site septic systems – a major constraint!

The District also pointed out that after much of the Water System was wiped out by the flooding and mudflows of January 4, 1982, the design for the rebuild of the Water System was set on the basis of a study conducted jointly by the District, the County’s Community Development Agency, and the Inverness Association. The result was that the Water System was “sized” to serve 600 “residential unit equivalents” (RUEs). There were 528 RUEs at the time; today, we have 611 active RUEs, plus current commitments to provide service to a total of 625 RUEs. Or, 25 RUEs above design capacity.

Improvements over the years in operational efficiency coupled with significant reductions in leakage (both on the customer side and the System side) have provided leeway to exceed the 600-RUEs limit by some margin – but not nearly enough for 186 new houses!

We are able to report today that our voice seems to have been heard. On March 8, the County released an updated list of candidate sites. Ten of the original 18 sites in the IPUD disappeared entirely from the list, and the remaining eight sites were tagged for just 27 units of housing: 13 in the moderate income category and 14 at the above-moderate level.

The 13 moderate level units would be built on a county-owned, approximately 1-acre parcel on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. west of the Camino del Mar turnoff. The 14 above-moderate units anticipate redevelopment of seven existing homes on Balmoral Way to multiple units (really!).

Our expectation is that none of the new units on Balmoral will ever materialize, and the site on Sir Francis Drake will accommodate at best no more than half a dozen units (if that!).

The County’s current list (which pares the original 6,332 units Countywide down to 4,356 units) will be the subject of a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15.

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